Good things take time, wiser heads have said, so some of the songs that appear on the debut album from Magpie Diaries, Sanctuary, are pushing close to twenty years old. But it is out now, and that is all that matters. Led by Dashville founder Matt ‘Magpie’ Johnston, it’s an album of soulful folk country, with touches of psychedelic rock’n’roll, and one we can hear live this February. We chat to Matt ‘Magpie’ Johnston.
Hey thanks for chatting to Forte! First up can you tell our readers a bit about Magpie Diaries and how you guys came to be?
I grew up at Dashville in the Hunter Valley, my brother taught me some basics on guitar, I started writing songs and playing some kind of punk music as a teenager. Eventually I went travelling, then I came home and started The Gum Ball (Festival). People call me Magpie and the songs are all stories that I recalled from past journals, when I finally gave myself the opportunity.
Congrats on the release of your debut album ‘Sanctuary’ which you released late last year. Can you tell us a bit about that?
I’m stoked to have the album. It took three years of chipping away, some of the songs had been kicking around for 10 or so years so it was cool to finally evolve them to where they have arrived on the album. Happy place indeed, it’s my sanctuary.
Who are some of your main influences on the album?
I dig the old stuff. Some heavy discoveries I’ve delved into include Bobby Charles, The Band, Neil Young and Van Morrison, more recently Charlie Tweddle and Michael Hurley.
You’re celebrating the release with an extensive tour which you’re already halfway through. How has it been so far?
It’s been awesome, Woodford was cool, it was great to warm up the band, and travel through great places and play to people. We’re fortunate to have a big tour bus so it’s pretty comfy.
Is there anywhere in particular you’re looking forward to performing, or are you heading somewhere you haven’t been before?
It’s our first time to most of these places, it’s going to be a lot of fun with Steve (Smyth) and Masco Sound System crew. I’m anticipating the Northcote ‘Dashville On The Road’ show, there’s a whole bunch of us playing an 8 hour long show. Hopefully all our Melbourne friends come and join us!
What do you enjoy most about been up on stage with your music?
My wife Jess plays drums and we sing songs together. For me that’s pretty special. There’s anywhere between 4-7 players in the band, usually 5, sometimes when the moods right it feels like anything can happen.
Plans for 2019 for Magpie Diaries?
This tour runs through to March, then we’ll play The Gum Ball end of April. After that, haven’t really committed anything yet, probably hit Canada or Europe through the winter if we can afford it.
Catch Magpie Diaries at The Eastern, Ballarat on Friday February 8, and The Barwon Club, Geelong on Saturday February 9.